Nearly two weeks since Naftali Fraenkel, Gil- Ad Shaer, and Eyal Yifrach disappeared after being abducted in the West Bank, tens of thousands of Israelis gathered in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square on Sunday night in a show of unity and prayer, issuing a call for children to be left outside of the violence of the Mideast conflict.
"Bring Back Our Boys Campaign" rally at Rabin Square, Tel Aviv 29; July 2014/MARC ISRAEL SELLEM
“No desperation” was the refrain of the song that rang out from the speakers on stage as pictures of the three teens were shown on giant TV screens. Above the stage, the names of the boys were spelled out in windows of city hall, as were the words “bring them home.” In the crowd, hundreds wore T-shirts with pictures of the missing boys, whose faces were plastered in the thousands across Tel Aviv during the day.
The majority of the crowd appeared to be from the national religious camp. This observation was not lost on Elizabeth Daray, an 18-year Tel Aviv resident by way of France.
“It makes me sad that almost everyone here is wearing kippot,” Daray said, adding that she had hoped to see a broader cross-section of the Israeli public.
When asked why she, a secular Tel Aviv resident came on Sunday, she said it was to show solidarity with the families and to say that “there has to be a limit. If it was soldiers it would hurt and be sad but these are kids, there have to be limits to what people can get away with.”
Others who came from further afield included the Spiegel family from Talmon, home to Shaer. They also said that they came to show support, and said “maybe it helps the families that we come.”
One of the family members said “we’ve been to enough demonstrations to know that they don’t change things [for the government] and either way, our soldiers already have all the motivation they need.”
For the mothers, the rally was an opportunity to see the support of thousands and also, to talk about their sons.
“Eyal, this is our third Shabbat without you,” said Yifrah’s mother, Iris, before describing how much she longs to hear him play guitar and sing shabbat songs.
“You had such a sense of giving and love, and the people of Israel love you back,” she said.
The rally wasn’t a demonstration, there weren’t demands, there weren’t shouts or angered voices calling for answers. There were mainly just three mothers and thousands of supporters, looking for a sense of unity in love after two weeks of heartbreak and fear.
“We didn’t come to protest, it’s a rally of love and togetherness,” said Rachel Fraenkel, Naftali’s mother.
She said that back in his room at home, Naftali’s driver’s education books are still laid out, and that he and the other boys, “have a lot of plans for the summer.”
Like others, she issued a call for children “to not be a bargaining chip,” and asked the crowd to remember that somewhere out there in the night “there are three boys who know there’s no chance we’ll give up.”
Jaclyn Gross contributed to this report.